A game shouldn’t be this long isn’t it?
The wait to the anticipated sequel to a zombie survival game that took the world by storm, Dying Light, is finally over. After 6 years Dying Light 2 Stay Human hit the shelves much to the delight of gamers, as they can finally continue the story of Aiden and his quest to find family in a zombie ridden world. On paper, an open world zombie game might sound ambitious but Dying Light still kept its cool and somehow delivered although it never really excelled. Now, 6 years after, its sequel Dying Light 2 is ready to blow us away and deliver a new zombie game experience in an open world setting complete with its trademark parkour antics, reaching new heights in AAA gaming….or is it?
Well, it’s quite the long story.
Disclaimer: The author has not played Dying Light just yet so this review will focus mostly on Dying Light 2 and will not offer much comparison between the two titles, also spoilers ahead.
Dying Light 2’s story is serviceable, it’s pretty straightforward, not too compelling but still easy to follow. You play as Aiden, a Pilgrim, one of the many character factions in the game, as he tries to track down his sister and uncover some dark secrets along the way. On your journey you will get to meet various characters each with their own motivations and as well as factions that will either help you or deter you with your quest. These characters can become allies as certain points in the story, guiding you through various parts and even introducing new mechanics and equipment. Dying Light 2’s story does not have a lot of twists and turns but there are certain decisions that affect the outcome of certain characters all the way up to the ending. It’s not the best in its class but it sure tries to keep you engaged, especially when following the main missions. In between the stories you also get flashbacks of your past, usually non interactive mini-cinematics, and while they are important in Aiden’s motivations, they kind of break the pacing the gameplay and not always in a good way.
As an open world game, there is a lot to explore in Dying Light 2. However, as an open world game, it also is a victim to the same pitfalls and follows the same formulaic approach that almost every open world game has, and that is copy-paste content. Sites to explore are nice for the first time, but it gets old easily and some of them does not even incentivize you that much for doing so. There’s not much to unlock but rather more loot to obtain which means that visiting places would be more of a resource run rather than satisfying player curiosity. Of course there are some sites to explore and some Easter eggs here and there but for the most part they are available later on in the game, so getting to those can take hours, long hours. Side quests are in the game yes, although most of the fun is in the various parkour and time attack challenges that also serve as skill checks and test how well versed you are with the mechanics at certain points in the game. Still I have to give props to Dying Light for toning down escort or pseudo-escort missions to almost none, albeit it is filled to brim with fetch quests. Despite all of this though, exploration can be rewarding in another way and that is through in-game experience which we’ll tackle a bit more later. This formula has been very common in many open world games, and while some of it does work, for the most part it does nothing but pad up the playtime and bloat the open world instead of offering something that’s actually rewarding for players to discover.
Dying Light 2 isn’t exactly a graphical masterpiece and that’s okay, most of what the game offers relies on its open-world content with graphics and gore being the icing on the cake. Still the game’s graphical fidelity takes advantage of the many advancements in technology today, such as various lighting effects, the details no the character models, and as well as, to some extent, how “animated” the expressions are during dialogue and how gritty and dirty the zombies look. Now talking about zombies, one letdown of the game though is how the animations don’t feel as if they belong in this generation of open world action titles. The rag doll effects aren’t as consistent, and can sometimes feel sloppy and floppy. Environmental objects and doodads that are supposed to add more gore to combat like spikes don’t seem to work as intended, and even effects like flames from your molotov have trouble spreading properly especially when thrown on uneven terrain. Still visual and audio cues on situations like taking damage and indicators for objects and locations are quite reliable. Options are also available for players to tweak their hud and make gameplay more immersive by turning off some visual features and indicators like health bars. The game’s atmosphere also varies depending on location and situation, foggy interiors from buildings filled with zombies, poison areas that reek of burning green mist, certain weathers and weather effects and of course the series day-night cycle which affects how you approach the open world and even certain locations at different in-game times.
With parkour at its core, Dying Light 2’s environment is also made sure to be built around this concept with a lot of ledges to hang on to and stuff to climb on. Freerunning feels fluid enough and various sections that allow you to traverse the world freely with less stress from zombies are also present. Still there are areas that can only be accessible until certain points in the story and even much later in the game as you unlock more mobility related tools like the paraglider and the grappling hook. It’s not the strongest or the most standout but it takes advantage of a working formula that doesn’t need a lot of fixing.
Also, talking about fixes, the game did suffer from a lot of issues during its first week and multiple patches and fixes were deployed but we were sure to download it all before diving further.
Dying Light 2 is more about the mobility and how fluid the movement is especially on its freerunning segments. As mentioned previously the environment is built around this concept and as such it is the strongest feature that the game offers. The parkour and freerun segments though, while fluid isn’t always accurate and can readily punish you when you miss your timings or even suddenly do extra inputs mid-movement. This can make the gameplay a bit frustrating as some sections feel like puzzles where timing plays a big part together with movement. The game’s fatigue system also poses hindrances as it covers EVERYTHING movement related even climbing sections. This hurts the open world experience as some areas feel locked away because your current stamina bar can’t keep up with all the climbing and the jumping even if it’s just to the next section that allows you to recover your stamina. Both stamina and health can be increased though by using inhibitor items that can be looted in quarantine zones or by taking on special enemies.
Dying light 2 also employs RPG mechanics and feature for player progression. Skills are divided into 2 options, and benefit either combat or parkour mobility. Variety isn’t the strongest factor when it comes to skills in Dying Light 2 but it does deliver enough to get you by in the game. Experience is gained not only by engaging and killing enemies but also by movement specifically when running around doing parkour. Experience gain isn’t the best as well, and at times you will find end up being constantly on the move and throwing yourself into bodies just to unlock skill points due to the seemingly meager experience gain, further bloating the playtime.
In terms of combat, Dying Light 2 is also pretty straightforward with melee dominating the approach. Various 1-handed and 2-handed weapons are for you to loot and find and each can be upgraded to add additional status effects. Despite this though, there is no option for you to actually craft weapons in-game or even armor, as crafting is only limited to consumables, throwables and item mods. Combat does have a certain level of variety still even if it’s dominated by melee as you can use parkour moves to take down enemies and even mix-up throwables with melee combat to combo up movements and take on hordes of mobs.
Stealth is also available for those who wish to utilize it and as well as ranged weapons if you want to go for that approach. Just take note that stealth isn’t exactly that big on this game and most of the fun is still on running circles around enemies, doing parkour while slowly tearing them apart with machetes, axes and other makeshift weapons. The day-night cycle also plays an influence in the gameplay approach as staying too long in the dark lowers your Immunity meter and once it reaches zero, well, it results in death no matter how high your life bar is. There are ways in game to extend your immunity not just during night but also in darkened areas, so exploration isn’t exactly hurt by a lot. Just be sure to stock up on your consumables though and other utility items to maximize your exploration time.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, this game has characters from different factions with the 2 main ones being the Peacekeepers and the Survivors. Aligning yourself to any of them, by way of the Facility mechanic, provides extra layer to gameplay as well. Each faction provides different environment and world add-ons like traps, weaponry, parkour spots and more mobility options that you can use to traverse and go about. There are also some fast travel spots that you can unlock to further shorten travel distance in between quests or even just on doing general exploration. Additional mobility is also unlocked later in the game specifically the paraglider an the grappling hook tools which increases mobility options, although we have to add that in contrast to its previous game, the grappling hook is only available during the near end-game missions in contrast to its prequel, Dying Light 1, where the grappling hook is available early on in the game. While majority of the climbing segments can be tackled without the use of the grappling hook, it is without a doubt a very fun and useful tool that could’ve been made available early on in the game.
Conclusion and final rating
Dying Light 2 works on the strengths of the open world formula although it does not do much to move further from what’s already tried and tested. It’s has its great segments, although not exactly mind-blowing, combat is good, and the RPG mechanics could use some more variety. Where it stands out though is how it utilizes parkour as a core mechanic and how it allows players to basically not mind anything else and just have fun traversing through the sandbox through numerous means. However though gameplay time is padded not because of the need to explore every nook and cranny of the map but rather because of the need to earn experience points to unlock more tools and access more areas. Dying Light 2 is not as immersive or as realistic as an experience compared to other open world hits but at the end of the day it’s still fun to just run and jump around and enjoy the apocalypse.